New Fire Engine Rolls Into Hampton

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Celebration Marks Both Truck
and Consolidation of Department

By Steve Jusseaume

Hampton Union, Friday, April 5, 2002

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
Retired Hampton firefighter Fred Clews smiles before taking a ride in the town's new
truck during a cermeony Tuesday at the fire station.
[Emily Reily]

HAMPTON — The Fire Department ended one of the most memorable and historic stretches in its history this week, taking receipt of a new engine at the Ashworth Fire Station on Tuesday with more than half-a-dozen town officials and several former firefighters looking on.

The occasion was made more celebratory with a luncheon thrown by the department in the second-floor meeting hall at the station house. After lunch, firefighter William Paine gave Fred Clews and Tom Gillick a ride around, the beach in the 2002 SMEAL pumper before backing it — albeit barely — into its berth in the fire station.


Firefighters and members of the public watch as the
truck backs into the garage at the Ashworth Avenue
Fire Station. [Emily Reily/]
After Town Manager James Barrington and beach Commissioner Mike O'Neil cut a red, white and blue ribbon stretched across the bay door, traffic on Ashworth was stopped and Paine cut across the road and gingerly backed the rig up and into the station.

The symbolic act went smoothly enough, though at one point Fire Chief Hank Lipe hollered and Paine put on the brakes. The 9-foot 10-inch high truck was only half in the station and neither Lipe nor anyone else was exactly sure the truck would fit full into the station house with its 10-foot floor to ceiling clearance.

"Might have to let some air out of the tires," one guy said, staring up at the top of the truck, which left about an inch between the top of the vehicle and an overhead outlet junction box.

But it did, and several in the garage breathed a sign of relief.

"When she's loaded with water and gear we'll gain another inch of two in clearance," another guy theorized.

The problem of fitting the truck into its new home was the only potential glitch in an otherwise fine day — not only for the department but also for the community.

During lunch — pasta, chicken, salad, potatoes, prepared by firefighter Dave Lang and his crack staff — Lipe set the tone.

"What a great day. We've seen the precinct and the town sign a new agreement on fire coverage at the beach, we have a lease, and last Friday the precinct donated its fire equipment, and now our newest truck ... This all makes for a great moment in history that's been coming for 95 years," said Lipe, referring to 1907 when the beach precinct was formed, primarily for fire protection.

Lipe praised the consolidation of the beach and town fire departments, saying combining departments will "lead to improved fire protection, improved fire department efficiency town wide."

O'Neil called the last nine days "a great week for the entire Hampton community," and Barrington commended both town and precinct officials for their "great collaborative effort" in securing the fire coverage agreement.

The new vehicle, which was driven up from Connecticut Tuesday morning, was built in Nebraska by the Smeal fire apparatus company, and is identical to a truck the department purchased two years ago.

The newest truck was authorized by a town vote last year. The $360,000 engine was custom-made for Hampton, for the type of building construction at the beach.

The cab seats six, including four behind the driver's seat,is capable of pumping 2,000 gallons per minute, has rescue capabilities, includes a 6,000-watt telescoping light tower, multiple hand lines and can distribute foam.

"Basically it was custom made for the type fires we have at Hampton Beach," said Deputy Chief Steve Benotti. "We have wood-frame buildings close together down here where we need quick knock-downs. The truck has remote control guns on top, can fight a fire with foam, and it's the same truck we already have at the in-town station, so we won't have to spend a lot of time on training because the men already know the first Smeal."

Benotti added that the wheels are aluminum, which prevents corrosion from the salt air. With the arrival of the truck, the beach station will have this one — Engine 2 — plus a back- up engine, ambulance and the 17-foot rescue boat. Uptown, Engine 3 will be stationed (Engine 2's brother), Engine 1, an ambulance and Ladder 2.

When it arrives this fall, the 29-foot rescue boat will have its own mooring in Hampton Harbor.

Tom Gillick looks out onto Ashworth Avenue from the back seat of Hampton's new fire
truck during a short ride on Tuesday afternoon.
[Emily Reily/]

Fred Clews, 87, a member of the call force with HFD for some 55 years, watched the new truck arrive. He recalled working at his hardware store on Ashworth Avenue and always having his truck pointed toward the station house in case a fire call came in. "We had some big fires at the beach, the C Street fire, a lot of big ones," Clews said as he tried out the front seat in the truck. Tom Gillick, a former career firefighter, got a kick sitting in the driver's seat. "How does it feel?" someone asked.

"Right at home," Gillick said with a smile, looking at a dashboard TV screen that showed the rear of the truck. "Back in my day we'd use the side mirror to see what was behind us. Gillick recalled being with the Lowell, Mass. Fire Department in 1941, "rear-stepping" on a circa 1925 engine on the way to fires.

"I'd have to say a lot of things have changed in 60 years," Gillick said.

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